Friday, January 30, 2009

Remain Clear of These Areas!

Feeling a bit guilty about my criticism of one of AOPA's online safety courses, I decided to give them another chance.

Yesterday, I took the verbosely titled Know Before You Go:  Navigating Today's Airspace course.  It is a good review of our complex airspace system, and I had just about decided to recommend it to all my gliding friends, when I encountered the "Miscellaneous Airspace Areas" part of the lesson:

(Click image to enlarge)

Note the subject of this sentence:
When practical, pilots should remain clear of these areas.
Once again, I agree with the advice given.  But I would have used slightly different wording.  Something along the lines of "When practical, bozos should remain clear of the pilots in these areas."

Rapid Response Rulewriting

Did you know that you can press a button on your Flight Recorder and it will log the fact that you pressed it?  The feature is called "Pilot Event Marker," and it has been around since the very beginning of Flight Recorders (we put it in mostly to test the recorders as they were being developed).

The International Gliding Commission (IGC) is responsible for all the rules governing World Records, Badges, and international competitions.  They meet every year in March to deliberate on the rules, and they publish them in a document called the Sporting Code, Section 3.  IGC is just one of the Air Sports Commissions of FAI, the one responsible for the sport of gliding.  Section 3 of the Sporting Code is the section that pertains to gliding.

In 1998, IGC decided that the Pilot Event Marker was "essential" for competitions and decided to make it mandatory for manufacturers of Flight Recorders to include this feature.  Competition rules were modified to allow the organizers of competitions to require the use of the Event Marker.

To those of us who objected to the requirement on the basis that we should be measuring flying skills, not button-pushing skills, the reply from the IGC rule-writers was, "Don't worry about it, its use in competitions is optional."

It turned out that the Event Marker was never used.  Organizers of competitions governed by IGC rules never opted to use it.  At its 2007 meeting, the IGC Executive (the "Bureau") decided that the Event Marker "is not needed anymore, and can go out."

Next month, the IGC Plenary will vote on a proposal to get rid of the requirement for manufacturers to provide Event Markers in Flight Recorders.  If it passes, one of the reasons flight recorders are expensive will be removed, with an effective date of October 1, 2010.  The event marker will be gone - seventeen years after we made the mistake of inventing it.

If you have a suggestion for improving the rules that might benefit your grandchildren, let me know, and I'll get the ball rolling right away.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Another water landing

AOPA, among others, have joined the media bandwagon in praising the US Airways flight crew that landed the Airbus 320 in the Hudson River.  Unlike most of the others, however, the AOPA writers were able to refrain from using the words "crash," "plunge," and "miracle," separately or all together.

In fact, the AOPA article said some nice things about glider pilots and glider training.  But we've been saying the same things all along.  I wonder where they found that picture.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Speaking of slow starts, the ski flying season is also behind schedule. Andy has done a good job of getting out whenever he can; Tim is flying, finally, after some carburetor troubles; and Rick and Rich are... well... lazy.

Come out and fly with us. Shoveling snow is lots of fun, kinda like whitewashing fences.


The PMSC Winter Breakfast season has got off to a rather torpid start. Two weeks ago, thanks to Thomas' initiative, nine of us assembled at EBA's in Hanover.  Last week the planned gathering at Lake Morey was a bit disorganized. Some of us thought that the breakfast was at the Lake Morey Inn at one end of the lake, while those who actually read the schedule went to the Hulbert Center at the other end of the lake.

And last weekend, the scheduled breakfast at Mickey's was snowed out (please correct me if I'm wrong; I decided not to go when the visibility dropped to one driveway length at 9am).

Here's hoping that we have a nice turnout at Crossroads Café in WRJ at 10am on Sunday.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Peter Betts

Peter Betts has died.

Peter joined the club in 2006, and when I first met him, I was not quite sure how to deal with a student pilot who was sick all the time. He immediately put me at ease by pointing out that he would be the the only student I wouldn't have to worry about making airsick. His chemotherapy took care of that in advance.

Peter eventually did learn how to fly, but more importantly, his learning taught us about optimism, and reminded us that the reason we fly has more to do with sharing our lives than with developing a special skill.

Peter's blog is here.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Name that Sailplane

From the shameless self promotion department: There is a photo of a glider at the top of page 12 in the January, 2009 issue of the Atlantic Flyer. Can you name the aircraft? Bonus question; where is it based? Not sure what the winner will receive but I can assure you it will not be expensive or coveted by others. Then again, it might be beer. In the case of a tie, the winning answer is based solely on my discretion which is questionable at best. Bribes considered.